OSWEGO, NY – Just as they have done for nearly a century, Port City veterans, their friends, families and others gathered to pay tribute to those who have gone before them – especially those who made the ultimate sacrifice.
The large crowd in Veterans’ Memorial Park stood by reverently as the appointed hour neared. The temperature was around 60 degrees Monday, making one of the warmer Veterans’ Days in recent memory.
Veterans’ Day is celebrated on the 11th day of the 11th month at the 11th hour; that’s when the (World War I) truce was declared, according to LTjg George Hoffman, USNSCC, of the U.S. Naval Sea Cadet Corp Truxtun DDG-103 Division in Oswego.
A chaplain offered the Veterans’ Day prayer and the flags at the center of the park were lowered; the Oswego City flag was first. It was solemnly folded.
The Prisoners Of War flag was next.
Then, the American flag was retired as well.
Representatives of the Oswego Navy Sea Cadets (PO 3 Maxwell Yonkers and PO 3 Shyan Fisher) lowered and folded the American flag. They then presented the flag to Oswego Mayor Tom Gillen.
“On behalf of the United States of America, I present these flags to you for safe keeping,” PO 3 Fisher said.
Dan Ferens, whose father was a POW at Stalag 17 during World War II, lowered the POW flag in honor of his father and all veterans who were ever prisoners, he said.
The mayor accepted the colors on behalf of the city.
They will be stored over the winter and then returned to their place of prominence next spring on Memorial Day.
“Today we honor our veterans who have sacrificed both in war and in peace to protect America and the American way of life,” Hoffman said. “We are here to honor our brave men and women who have proudly served this great nation, for they are the fabric from which our flag has been woven.”
This year marked the 96th anniversary of the first observance.
Armistice Day commemorates the Armistice back in 1918, after World War I, Hoffman said. It was signed at 11 a.m. on the 11th day of the 11th month, he explained.
In 1954, the holiday was changed to Veterans’ Day following World War II and the Korean War.
In 1968, it was decided to move the holiday to the last Monday of October, he Hoffman told Oswego County Today. The first non-traditional Veterans’ Day was celebrated Oct. 25, 1971 – “observed with much confusion.”
“Many states didn’t agree with this and continued to celebrate the holiday on its original date,” Hoffman added. “Finally on Sept. 20, 1975, President Gerald R. Ford signed a law that returned the annual observance to its original date beginning in 1978.”
“Today is a day to honor veterans. So, if you see a serviceman or veteran, make sure you think them or even give them a hug,” he said.
“We take this for granted what we have here. It’s a beautiful day, a beautiful city – what a view. But it comes with a price and that’s what we’re here to celebrate today; the people who made this happen,” Mayor Tom Gillen told the more than three dozen people crowded around the park. “May we always be humbly grateful to those great brave American patriots who suffered and sacrificed for the freedoms of all Americans. To those soldiers, sailors, Marines and Coast Guardsmen who have stood guard in peace time and to those who have seen the terror, the horror and inhumanity of combat and those who paid the ultimate price – let it be said that our fighting men and women have been there for America and the entire free world.”
The US Coast Guard is the oldest service in the United States being established in 1790 as the Revenue Cutter Service and has been involved in every conflict the US has ever been involved in.
The mayor offered “a simple but heartfelt message” to all veterans – “Thank you very much.”
Oswego’s park is the site of the first free-standing MIA – POW monument in the nation. A monument, honoring those who served as part of Operation Enduring Freedom / Operation Iraqi Freedom (Iraq and Afghanistan), was added last year to the memorials to veterans of the nation’s other wars. The Veterans’ Council of Oswego worked with Oswego County Monuments to establish the new monument.
“Hopefully, it will be the last monument we have to place in this park,” Hoffman said.
On the left side “2001” is inscribed. The right side is blank.
The best pay a veteran can receive, Hoffman pointed out, “is a thank you.”
“Veterans’ Day is treated as a holiday, and yet, shouldn’t be a holiday, Hoffman said. “It should be a day of remembrance. We have to make sure our children never forget that message. It shows respect for (veterans’) service.”
Anyone interested in joining the Sea Cadets or obtaining information can contact Hoffman at 315-591-0000, or e-mail [email protected]